The Washington Post Company announced today, 5 July, that Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos had bought the newspaper business in a $250m deal.
The Washington Post stressed it was Bezos and not Amazon that had purchased the flagship title as well as the Express newspaper, The Gazette Newspapers, Southern Maryland Newspapers, Fairfax County Times, El Tiempo Latino and Greater Washington Publishing.
Explaining the shock decision to sell, Post chairman and CEO Donald Graham said: “I, along with Katharine Weymouth and our board of directors, decided to sell only after years of familiar newspaper-industry challenges made us wonder if there might be another owner who would be better for the Post (after a transaction that would be in the best interest of our shareholders).”
“Jeff Bezos’ proven technology and business genius, his long-term approach and his personal decency make him a uniquely good new owner for the Post,” he said.
The company, which has been in the Graham family since the 1930s, retains Slate magazine,TheRoot.com, Foreign Policy, Kaplan, Post–Newsweek Stations and Cable ONE as well as other parts of the business.
The separation means the company will be changing its name to a yet-to-be-announced title.
Upon announcement of the sale, Bezos wrote an open letter to staff explaining that it was “only natural to worry about change” but that “the values of the Post do not need changing."
“I won’t be leading The Washington Post day-to-day. I am happily living in “the other Washington” where I have a day job that I love. Besides that, The Post already has an excellent leadership team that knows much more about the news business than I do, and I’m extremely grateful to them for agreeing to stay on,” he wrote.
However, he also addressed the growing need for change as print newspapers struggle in an increasingly digital climate. He said: “There will of course be change at The Post over the coming years. That’s essential and would have happened with or without new ownership. The Internet is transforming almost every element of the news business: shortening news cycles, eroding long-reliable revenue sources, and enabling new kinds of competition, some of which bear little or no news-gathering costs. There is no map, and charting a path ahead will not be easy. We will need to invent, which means we will need to experiment. Our touchstone will be readers, understanding what they care about – government, local leaders, restaurant openings, scout troops, businesses, charities, governors, sports – and working backwards from there. I’m excited and optimistic about the opportunity for invention.”
Washington Post CEO and publisher Katharine Weymouth, president and general manager Stephen P. Hills, executive editor Martin Baron, and editorial page editor Fred Hiatt will all remain with The Washington Post.
The sale is expected to be completed within the next 60 days.